Math isn’t just a numbers game: writing, drawing, and talking about solving problems

As we discussed last time, teachers trying to help students who struggle with math need to use a variety of techniques. You can go back and review techniques 1, 2, and 3 in the last post. And, if you visualize a number line, you can see that number 3 is followed by numbers 4, 5 and 6. So technique number 4 is … (drumroll)

orton-Gillingham Math teacher

Drawing and Talking About Math.

4.  Use drawings (TA-DA!) to translate and visualize math concepts. Drawings in math are known as the representational level. They are crucial in helping students make the connection between the materials (at the concrete level of understanding) and numbers or formulas (at the abstract level of understanding.) Students’ drawings, verbal explanations, and journals legitimately testify to their understanding of Math concepts .  Those drawings are also quite often easier to retrieve from memory than pen and paper tasks.

5.    Let’s Give Them Something To Talk About, as Bonnie Raitt famously sang.  Technique number 5 is a mouthful of jargon that has its own acronym : S.O.M. or Simultaneous Oral Math. It’s an adaptation of  the Orton-Gillingham technique of Simultaneous Oral Spelling, or S.O.S. which is translated into a math format. It simply means that teachers need to encourage students to think aloud when solving problems, and have students give oral explanations of the thinking that leads to their solutions. With the O-G Math approach the teacher has the benefit of clearly understanding that the student will need time to process information before making a response.

6.    Let’s take turns. As every O-G practitioner knows, demonstrated knowledge includes three things: comprehension of task demands, articulation of one’s own approach to the learning of similar tasks, and a grasp of the appropriate strategies for the task. The diagnostic/prescriptive aspect of O-G is easily employed with SOM when we hear the thinking process behind the student’s approach to solutions and see the results of their efforts on a day to day basis. By verbalizing step by step how a math problem is solved, students can self-correct their mistakes. And self-correction is where confidence and independence is built in O-G lessons.

When students write, draw or orally compose their own original word problems, these can be adapted and used for review. When teacher and student take turns writing and adding carefully measured complexity to math word problems, this activity can reinforce students’ reading and writing skills.

We’ll finish out the top ten in our next post. Be sure to watch for it.